Mentoring Can Provide Sustainable Benefits
Mentoring is important in every industry. While internships and apprenticeships typically teach a trade, mentorship programs have another objective: to give new employees, supervisors and managers the opportunity to learn from seasoned leaders. It also allows for senior leaders to learn from their younger associates.
Mentoring was once considered a “nice to have” program to help supervisors and managers achieve their goals. But it is now considered a “must have” program for all employees in most industries. Mentoring provides the opportunity for everyone in the organization to have a safe space to discuss career goals and objectives while being guided by someone with experience in the area. The role of a mentor is to focus on the professional and personal growth and development of the mentee, develop the mentee’s long-term management and leadership skills, and work with the mentee on critical decision-making skills.
The mentoring relationship can be mutually beneficial to both the mentor and mentee as they inspire, innovate, learn and grow together. Warren Berger, the author of A More Beautiful Question, says that when the world gets more complicated and complex, we need to question more because we must be learning and changing. Berger asserts that we need questioning now more than ever. A mentoring relationship is the perfect place to build one’s capacity to grow as questioner and an active listener.
Creating a Mentoring Culture
PGi released a study in 2016 that dove into the millennial mindset. Of the millennials who participated in the survey, 71 percent stated that they wanted meaningful connections at work and hoped to find a “second family” in their coworkers. Additionally, 75 percent of the millennial respondents viewed mentoring as crucial to their success.
In the same survey, 70 percent of non-millennials said they are open to reverse mentoring. They acknowledge that 20- and 30-somethings have more technological knowledge and engage in more innovative practices than their older counterparts. Generations of employees can, therefore, learn from each other through mentoring.
Most millennials cited “not a good cultural fit” as one of the top reasons why they left their job in the first three years. To retain this cohort in the workforce, companies need to align their culture to meet the needs of millennials. This should help a multigenerational workforce to have a more meaningful support system and better connections on the job.
Mentoring is Good for Diversity and Inclusion
Mentoring programs are critical to promoting diversity and inclusion efforts. They can help employees develop a sense of belonging, support traditionally underrepresented groups, increase promotion rates and foster understanding between cultural groups.
A study by Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev at Harvard University analyzed the impact of mentoring, voluntary training, self-managed teams, cross-training, college recruitment, diversity task forces and diversity managers on the representation of African American, Hispanic and Asian men and women at the manager level. The researchers found that mentoring had the largest impact of all strategies, resulting in an increase of representation of minorities at the manager level by 9 to 24 percent.
While many organizations recognize the impact of mentorship on advancing diversity and fostering inclusivity, most rely on informal mentorship. They recommend that employees mentor but do not offer support such as resources, funding, mentor matching and a formal process. Unfortunately, when many people reach out to mentor informally, they reach out to people in their own likeness. Lean In found that one in six male managers feel uncomfortable mentoring women. Lean In also reported that 60 percent of men in the U.S. are uneasy performing “common workplace activities” alone with a woman. Formal mentoring programs offer an established, credible and supported way for men to mentor women and minorities.
Formal Mentor Programs Provide Results
Study after study prove that there is no downside to mentoring if the program is well-engineered. Mentors and mentees are more engaged and better positioned for advancement. Engagement equals retention, and retention saves time and money. Across the board, companies that invest in formal workplace mentoring programs experience substantial returns on their investment. DDI World disclosed in its Mentoring Global Leadership Forecast (2018) that 54 percent of organizations in the top third of financial performance have formal mentoring programs, as opposed to 33 percent of organizations in the bottom third.
Julie Silard Kantor is vice president of leadership, culture and DEIB at Change 4 Growth.
This article appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of New Jersey CPA magazine. Read the full issue.